Should you eat before or after your workout?

Exercise, in reality, is only optimally beneficial when coupled with a perfectly balanced diet. So while we all spend the day eating and staying active, it makes sense that what we actually need to be eating for the best results, should be a priority. But what do should you eat before your workout, and after, to ensure that you're giving yourself the best chance of reaching your goals?

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The fact of the matter is that you need to be eating the right things at the right time – pre- and post-workout, to be exact – so that you can workout at peak performance every day.

We must make it clear that it is also dependent on your goals. This is simply a brief overview of what someone should eat before and after exercising, when they’re on a regular training plan. If your goals are a bit different, namely to do with weight loss or bulking, the consulting a dietician, nutritionist, or doing your own research is recommended.

For those looking to stay fit and in shape, while building muscle and staying healthy, then continue reading all about what the research says when it comes to a nutrition plan that complements your training.


Before training, whether it’s the morning, afternoon, or evening, you can be sure that actually getting to the gym should be your main priority. Eating something, especially if you need that energy boost, is fine, but it isn’t 100% necessary.

Many gym-goers use a method called fasted training whereby they train their bodies to become used to relying on fat stores to burn for energy. This is especially true for those of us who work out in the morning and are just not that hungry when we wake up.  

Although there’s nothing wrong with having a bite to eat either, it just shouldn't be too heavy.

Studies have shown that ingesting a pre-workout supplement can improve agility, reaction, and performance, while reducing fatigue. This is especially important when it comes to the glucose, fructose, and caffeine that add to your endurance.

But it’s not all about supplementation…

Foods also provide you with that much needed boost that won’t leave you feeling lethargic and drained, sometimes even in the beginning of your routine.

Here are the foods that you can make sure will positively impact your routine:  

Bananas and almond butter provide you with essential fats and carbohydrates to keep your energy levels high.

Oatmeal with berries are a light meal that fill your body with antioxidants and give you a much-needed boost.

Sweet potatoes in a small portion provide you with an adequate concentration of vitamin C.

Fruits and vegetables, which are formed of fibrous carbohydrates and are harder to break down, and so don’t spike blood sugar too much.


After your workout it’ll all depend on the intensity and what you aim to achieve: toning and bulking are just two of a variety of goals we all have when we start training with regularity.

But the fact remains, after depleting your energy stores and putting your body under stress you’ll need to recharge so that you can recover adequately and your body has something to use throughout the day.

Always good to remember your macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fats since they do help to keep you healthy.  

It’s important to replenish your glycogen stores and this can be achieved by a healthy intake of high glycemic carbs: fruits and vegetables. Research shows that insulin is important due to it being an anabolic shuttling hormone, that’s one job is to move sugar and amino acids to the muscle cells where they can be stored or utilized. Your body will also feel better as it recovers quicker. The more sensitive you are to insulin heightens this process even more, and eating after fasted training will cause this.


Another thing to acknowledge is that protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to training, but it doesn't necessarily follow a dedicated timeline. There has been an indication that protein intake over the course of a day (so before and after training) is important, not specifically protein after exercise. So, it’s important to ensure adequate intake of protein within a 24-hour time period, as opposed to specifically after training. Indeed, muscle protein synthesis can be elevated 48-72h after training, so protein intake needs to be high for the duration of this time.

Inflammation is very likely to occur following an intense workout, and in order to reduce this it is important to get enough omega-3 fatty acids. These can be supplemented or got from oily fish, nuts and seeds as well as grass-fed meat. If you are training regularly, then your body might not be able to recover sufficiently from the continuous inflammation without a little bit of help.  

This inflammation and oxidative stress can also be counteracted by antioxidants, which can be found in berries. They’re also easy to mix into your post-workout shake, added to salad or even your daily dose of Greek yoghurt – which is also rich in protein.   

Here’s a few foods to get you well on your way to a productive day:

A whey protein shake, with banana, for those added recovery benefits from potassium.

Steamed vegetables and skinless chicken breast.

A bowl of quinoa with black berries for the vegetarians.

Salmon with mashed potato.

So there you have, it’s easy enough to follow. The key points to take out of this is to not eat too much before you work out as it’ll leave you feeling bloated and may do some devilish things to your digestive system, but still remember to take something in – even if it’s an energy bar.

When it comes to directly after training, there are different schools of thought, but a healthy meal replacement shake, with adequate amounts of nutrients followed by a balanced diet throughout the day should set you on your way to achieving your human potential.

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